The fortuitous opportunity of the guitar chair in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra came my way in 1986. The guitarist I was taking over from, Chris Watson, had held the chair for many years so it was quite a coveted position by many of the guitarists starting careers at that time. Chris decided to move on around the time I was the right age and of a good enough standard and I was very lucky to get to take over from him. Apart from being able to play jazz the other essential qualification for being in NYJO was being able to sight read to a very high standard. Thanks to the fact that I had taken lessons from session guitarist, Len Argent when I was about 12 I was a very capable sight reader, He had imparted to me the importance of reading if I wanted to be a professional musician, He taught me to read and read well which has enabled many work opportunities to come my way since.
I held the guitar chair for 2 to 3 years, and during that time I played with many incredible artists including Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, and even the legendary guitarist John Williams, and we also performed at events such as The Royal Variety Show and got to meet the Queen.
Playing with NYJO was really a stepping stone for my career, it was an excellent grounding in jazz technique and style, it meant I got to know many other up and coming young players of other instruments, and it gave me a showcase for my playing leading to other professional work when I left.